With Easter just a few days away, chocolate fans around the world will be eagerly stocking their cupboards with sweet treats.
But just how green is your favourite Easter egg?
Experts have slammed nearly 30 per cent of the world’s top cocoa buyers amidst claims that they need to ‘catch up’ in the face of serious issues.
While creme, mini, and chocolate button eggs are often a popular choice around this time of year, Cadbury owners were among those called out for a lack of transparency.
A ‘Rotten Egg Award’ was also handed to Walmart alongside General Mills – the big name behind Häagen-Dazs and Betty Crocker – for their ‘lack of public policies and commitment for their cocoa procurement’.
Scientists have ranked 43 companies responsible for 90 per cent of the world’s cocoa (many available in the UK are listed above) in addition to 29 retailers
Experts said 19 of the companies need to ‘catch up with the industry’ in one or more areas, while calling out the owner of Cadbury’s and Toblerone for lacking transparency
The Chocolate Scoreboard, by Australian campaign group Be Slavery Free, has ranked 72 brands and retailers that buy around 95 per cent of cocoa across the globe.
Dr Julian Oram, Senior Director, Africa, at Mighty Earth, who worked on the report, said: ‘Companies are sitting on information that could shed light onto these “dark” chocolate origins.
‘Some of the biggest brands including Starbucks, Lindt, Godiva and Kellog’s have scored badly for tackling deforestation and climate.
‘We know they can do better and will be encouraging them to do so. Others such as Mondelez, Unilever and Tesco have stayed silent and refused to take part this year, which begs the question: What are they hiding?’
The research comes as 40 per cent of global cocoa remains untraceable, with beans from deforested lands still entering the market.
That’s why logging, climate and agricultural techniques were among factors considered by scorers.
Forced/child labour, transparency and living income were also accounted for in the rankings.
Andrew Wallis OBE, CEO at anti-slavery charity Unseen, said: ‘Child labour and modern slavery are part of the cocoa industry and present in the chocolate we buy.
‘This year’s Scorecard shows that of the 56 companies taking part, only nine achieved the best rating for addressing child and forced labour in their supply chains.’
Among supermarkets assessed by the Chocolate Scoreboard, Aldi was seen to be one of the more sustainable retailers, developing programs to address living income and agroforestry
Tony’s Chocolonely and Original Beans were handed the ‘Good Egg’ award for their approaches to the chocolate industry
While 91 per cent of the big chocolate brands said ‘no’ to deforestation, this was not the case for everyone.
Lindt, and Hershey were said to be ‘doing something’ but nothing ground-breaking to address chocolate industry issues.
Both Kellog’s and US-based Walgreens also came under fire for achieving the worst score in every category with ‘no significant initiatives’.
Mr Wallis OBE added: ‘We hope consumers use this information to buy ethical chocolate free of human rights’ abuses.’
Despite these results, Kellog’s claims it is ‘committed’ to being ‘environmentally, socially, and economically responsible’ in its sourcing of cocoa and other ingredients.
A Kellog’s spokesman said: ‘As we work toward our goal of achieving 100 per cent responsibly sourced cocoa, we are continuing to expand and evolve our programme, working with third-parties, our suppliers, and collaborative industry organisations to incorporate best practices and guidance. We report our progress on our Kellogg’s Better Days website.’
Owner of M&Ms, Snickers and Twix was an industry leader on the deforestation side of things
Experts were also left asking ‘what are they hiding?’ after more than 20 per cent of companies did not respond or complete the survey.
Among these were Cadbury-owners Mondelēz and Unilever despite previously participating in the Chocolate Scoreboard.
Be Slavery Free said: ‘Following the survey distribution, five companies, namely FrieslandCampina, General Mills, Krüger Group, Unilever, and Mondelēz, opted not to participate.
‘This is the second year General Mills has not participated. Unilever and Mondelēz have participated previously. This is the first year the Krüger Group opted not to participate.
‘We view their non-participation as a lack of transparency. We believe that all companies selling chocolate products should be able to provide the information requested in the survey.’
Facing these allegations, Unilever stated that it is transparent, with 99 per cent of cocoa sourced through well-renowned ‘certification schemes’.
A spokesman said: ‘While this is great progress, we’re committed to going further by working with others to tackle the endemic issues associated with the cocoa industry.’
Walmart has been crowned a winner of the ‘Rotten Egg Award’ alongside General Mills – the big name behind Häagen-Dazs and Betty Crocker (pictured left). Sainsbury’s (right) and Waitrose were said to be ‘doing something more than certification’ while M&S and Costco was said to be relying solely on certification
On the flip side, both Tony’s Chocolonely and Original Beans were handed the ‘Good Egg’ award for leading the industry with sustainable change.
Another top scorer was Ben & Jerry’s, while Nestlé and Mars Wrigley – owners of chocolates like M&Ms – were highly praised for improving since last year.
Despite achieving an ‘orange’ score, researchers praised Starbucks for its willingness to be transparent and starting out on its sustainability journey.
Among supermarkets, Aldi was also seen to be one of the best ranked retailers compared with Lidl, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose who were said to be ‘doing something’ but nothing industry-leading.
Researchers added: ‘Consumers and investors have a right to be informed about the conditions under which chocolate is produced.’
MailOnline has approached a number of organisations for comment.
A Mondelēz spokesman has since responded: ‘At Mondelēz International, we focus where we can have the biggest positive impact.
‘Cocoa Life is our signature cocoa sustainable sourcing program where we are investing and working with partners in cocoa producing countries to help tackle the interconnected challenges cocoa farmers and their communities face, help make measurable impact and make cocoa sourcing more sustainable.
‘Our focus is on the next chapter of Cocoa Life which is why in 2022 we announced our investment of an additional $600M through 2030 for a total $1B investment since the start of the program in 2012 with the goal to increase our program to work with ~300,000 cocoa farmers by 2030.’
IS CHOCOLATE GOOD FOR YOU?
Chocolate is undoubtedly the nation’s favourite dietary vice but lots of research over the years has found that it could actually be good for us.
With more than 300 chemicals in chocolate, scientists are investigating a whole range of health benefits linked to the food.
Researchers at Harvard University studied 8,000 men aged over 65 and found that those who ate modest amounts of chocolate lived almost a year longer than those who ate none.
Dr Neil Martin of the Cognition and Research Centre at Middlesex University exposed people to different smells and measured their brain activity.
The results showed that smell receptors in the nasal passages reacted so strongly to the chemical mix in chocolate that it left people on an emotional high.
A 100g bar of dark chocolate gives you 2.4mg of iron and 90mg of magnesium, around one third of the recommended daily amounts.
White chocolate, on the other hand, contains no cocoa solids, just cocoa butter, and is relatively high in fat. A 100g white Toblerone bar has a whopping 540 calories and 30.7g of fat.
Yet, despite its sugar content, chocolate is said by dentists to be less damaging to the teeth than many other sweets because it tends to be chewed quickly, not sucked.
There are also naturally-occurring tannins in chocolate that help to inhibit the growth of dental plaque.
And there is known to be a substance in all chocolate called phenylethamine (PEA), which is produced naturally by the brain and thought to increase levels of the mood-enhancing chemicals, serotonin and endorphins.
In theory, the more PEA you eat, the more amorous and aroused you feel, which is why chocolate has gained a reputation as an aphrodisiac.
A TV series on the Food Network called Food: Fact or Fiction? looks at how eating chocolate affects the brain.
Researchers found sharing chocolate with a loved one increased oxytocin levels.
This much-loved sweet treat also stimulates theobromine and phenylethylamine.
Phenylethylamine stimulates the release of B-endorphin which stokes the production of dopamine and norepinephrine.
These chemicals flood your system when you’re feeling loving.
Theobromine is chemically similar to caffeine and like its chemical cousin it stimulates the central nervous system and also has mood enhancing effects.
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